Bouncing back: Ball State women’s basketball continues to make home-court a community atmosphere

Junior Ally Becki puts the ball in for two-points against Akron Feb. 28 at Worthen Arena. Isaiah Wallace, DN
Junior Ally Becki puts the ball in for two-points against Akron Feb. 28 at Worthen Arena. Isaiah Wallace, DN

Wednesday night’s contest between the Akron Zips and the Ball State Cardinals (24-4, 13-2 MAC) marked the end of various community connection events hosted by the Cardinals in Worthen Arena this year. Throughout the season, different games were dedicated to different causes. Everything from cancer awareness night to elementary school day was recognized.

The game against the Zips (9-16, 4-10 MAC) was dedicated to the people of Westminster Village, a non-profit retirement community in Muncie. Several people from Westminster showed up and claimed a corner in the arena, hanging a poster of support for the Cardinals. With the group in attendance, the Cardinals bounced back from a loss against the Toledo Rockets and came away with a 75-51 win over Akron.  

In the lead-up to Westminster night, the team spent time with the people living in the village, doing everything from playing bingo with them to handing out posters inviting them to the game. 

“It's everything just knowing that we have such a big fan base behind us and the fact that we go out in the communities,” junior Alex Richard said. “They're gonna come and support us.”

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Junior Alex Richard looks up to shoot the ball against Akron Feb. 28 at Worthen Arena. Richard scored 21 points in the game. Kate Tilbury, DN

During the offseason, the team put together a game-by-game strategy for the themed events. The outcome of them and how they would look on a night-to-night basis wasn’t guaranteed. 

“We tried to do that in the past, but your community has to get behind it,” Sallee said. “Our kids worked really, really hard at getting out and connecting, saying, ‘Hey, come watch us play.’”

Along with trips to Westminster, the team has made appearances on the Ball State campus throughout the year to try and garner more community support. Junior Ally Becki said she’s seen women’s basketball bring the community together. 

“After every game, they're all yelling at us, telling us good job,” Becki said. “It's cool to see how much women's basketball has developed over the years and to see everyone collectively getting together and supporting us.”

Coming off of the defeat against Toledo, Sallee described the game as “unacceptable” and stated that it was a “salty” couple of days of preparation for his team. Despite that, the loss itself wasn’t what he was most disappointed in. He said his team failed to live up to the standard they’ve set all year. 

So when the ball was thrown up for tip-off Wednesday night, Sallee said Ball State had already owned up to the issues that hurt them a few days prior. 

“I don't know that in my time as a head coach, I've spent less time preparing for an opponent, and that does not have anything to do with Akron,” Sallee said. “It has everything to do with these young ladies and making sure that we can go up there to Cleveland and do what we want to do.”

Through the first 17 minutes of the game, Akron had hoisted up 15 shots and had 15 turnovers. The pressure is something Ball State has missed. In their last two games, the Cardinals forced a combined 21 turnovers. Wednesday, they forced the Zips into that exact same number for the game.

“I thought for the first time in a while we really unleashed the press today, and when we get that ball rolling, it can be daunting for another team to play through,” Sallee said. 

Richard scored the Cardinals’ first six points, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. With her game-high 21 points, Richard reached double-digit points for the tenth time this season, and for the fifth time in the last seven games. Richard credits the extra time she’s put in the gym getting shots up, helping her confidence. Becki said Richard’s contributions reflect what the team’s main objectives are.

“It's late in the season, everyone's tired, everyone's going through it. Just to see that she has a second gear and just being able to put in more work,” Becki said. “We're in it for the win and we're in it for the right reason.”

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Junior Nyla Hampton decides on her next move against Akron Feb. 28 at Worthen Arena. Isaiah Wallace, DN

Becki added five 3-pointers, accumulating 19 points on 50 percent shooting. While leading the team with 13 points per game, Becki had only hit that average once in the last six games. She added four rebounds and two assists. 

With the win, Ball State moved to 12-1 on the year at home. With just senior day remaining, Sallee said he credits the band, the student section, the community and his team’s effort as the reason for his team’s dominant record at home this year. 

“We take a lot of pride in the blood, sweat and tears that we put out there every day. And so on game night, we get to kind of show what this place means to us,” Salle said. “It's fun in here on game night.”

The Cardinals will honor three seniors on Saturday, Mar. 2, in their game with the Eastern Michigan Eagles. Tip-off is scheduled for 11 a.m.

Contact Caleb Zuver via email at or on X @zuves35.


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